What comes to your mind when you think of Bangkok? Being a shopping haven for both locals and foreigners, it’s inevitable to think about all the trendy apparels and accessories you can get at a bargain price at the Land of Smiles. For me, I get reminded of the food carts that line the streets of Bangkok and I still miss them fondly even though I haven’t set foot in that city for almost 5 years (due to my preference to travel to somewhere different and further for my annual trip). However, these foods are somehow not really common in Singapore (not sophisticated and restaurant-quality enough?). Hence, whenever my craving for Thai food kicks in, I’d usually settle for safer choices like Green Curry (kaeng khiao wan), Tom Yam, Phad Thai or Pineapple Fried Rice and (the obligatory) Mango Sticky Rice for dessert which often are signature dishes and will never go wrong at local Thai restaurants.
But even the nicest food gets bland after awhile. And surely there is more to Thai food than these few mainstream dishes as evident from what I saw at Bangkok. If so, where can I find them in Singapore?
As if to answer my thoughts, Nara Thai introduced a new and refreshed menu inspired by Bangkok’s famed grilled street food! Thai food lovers like myself are in for a treat with 15 new dishes ranging from $7.90 for the Ma Muang Khara Mel (Caramelised Mango with Coconut Ice Cream and Basil Sauce) to S$88.90 for the Ruam Mit Talay Yang (Assorted Grilled Seafood Platter).
First opened at ION Orchard in September 2013, Nara Thai is a restaurant where anybody with a passion for good food can enjoy authentic Thai Cuisine in a relaxed ambience with good service. Named one of Singapore Tatler’s best restaurants from 2007 to 2014, it is known for its Kuay Tiew Rua (Boat Noodles) and Phunim Phad Pong Karee (Stir-fried Softshell Crab with Yellow Curry) while serving a la carte dishes that are derived from authentic recipes which have been adapted into a modern context.
Diners can expect the following dishes from their refreshed menu:
My low-carb diet took a backseat that evening because I was so intrigued by the rice colour. But to be honest, this blue rice tasted just like any basic white rice – plain but fragrant and fluffy. However, what makes it so unique (apart from the colour) is its health benefits. Steamed with dried an chan (Thai for Butterfly Pea Flower, from which the rice inherits the blue colour), it is laden with powerful antioxidants and is also said to treat depression, soothe the heart-mind, relieve stomach and menstrual cramps and known to be beneficial for healthy hair growth (source). So ladies, go easy on your diet and enjoy your plate of Blue Jasmine Rice with the rest of your dishes! 🙂
Not really the highlight of the dinner but the chicken was entirely boneless (awesome!) and really tender. Plus, it was cut in nice proportions thus making sharing very easy at my table for four. The fried garlic (although I don’t fancy fried garlic at all) gave the chicken, which skin was already very crispy, an extra crunch.
I don’t know why Singaporean Chinese love anything pork – pork leg, pork belly, pork tenderloin but never (or seldom) pork neck! Pork neck is actually very popular in Thailand and a lot less fatty as compared to pork belly. It has the perfect balance of fat, muscle and tender flesh. It actually tasted very delicious and soft with the right amount of saltiness and went especially well with the Tamarind dip which was sweet and refreshing to the palate! One of the top favourites among the bloggers present that evening, it was also the first to empty on the table.
Cha Om is the feathery shoots of a shrub called Acacia penneta and it emits a revolting smell in its raw form (like stink beans/臭豆 argh) but miraculously disappears when it’s cooked. Apparently, it’s very common for Cha Om to be fried with beaten eggs in Thailand and Myanmar, giving you the above Cha Om Omelette! I call it the Thai version of our Fuyong omelette. It’s a very homely dish widely prepared in Thailand and definitely very tasty 🙂 Best eaten with the chilli sauce served with it!
The platter, good for two to three (but in my case it was for four, so the actual one should be of relatively smaller portion), was a combination of 5 different seafood that are also sold a la carte – Pla Kra Pong Yang (Street-style Grilled Whole Sea Bass), Kung Yang (Black Pepper Tiger Prawns), grilled whole squid, skewered scallops and mussels with chili lime marinate. Squid was a little too dry for my liking but I really enjoyed the succulent scallops and fleshy butterflied Tiger Prawns which were coated with a generous layer of crushed black peppercorns and minced garlic! Shiok. Mussels were great and tangy too!
The street-style grilled Sea bass is stuffed with lemongrass (as can be seen from the picture above), kaffir lime and galangar and subsequently slow-cooked on the grill. Every fish served at Nara Thai, including this Sea bass, is handpicked by the chef personally at Jurong Fishery Port during wee hours of the morning everyday to ensure optimal freshness. Indeed, the Sea bass (which also happens to be my favourite type of fish, whoopie!) I had was really tender and aromatic. To my bewilderment, the crispy skin isn’t meant to be eaten at all so it was a little stiff and hard to tear (still safe to eat nonetheless if you get fragments of it on the flesh).
Finally, a signature Thai dessert to end a splendid meal.
The coconut ice cream tasted exactly the same as the one found along the streets of Bangkok but with a subtle dash of basil sauce to give it some zest that wasn’t too overpowering. The mango was absolutely fresh and sweet too! I just wish that we were served individual portions of this awesome dessert instead of having to share haha 😛
Thanks Nara Thai and Originally Us for having me at the food tasting session 🙂
And that’s all for my review!
But hold on, if you’re planning to try out the food I’ve featured, do read on because I have another awesome recommendation for you guys!
Do you fancy some 1-for-1 food offers? If you do, you have to check out The Entertainer! Some of you might have already heard of The Entertainer book which contains a truckload of 1-for-1 vouchers at the hottest restaurants, spas, leisure (yes, overseas hotels included!), beauty, fitness centres and international renowned hotels (and when I mean the hottest, I mean well-known ones like Spruce, Yoshinoya, Marble Slab and many more!), available for sale at selected bookstores. If you’re more of a techie than a bibliophile, you will be pleased to know that The Entertainer is now available as an app!
Like the book, the app has over 1000 one-for-one deals but with new offers added through the year. You can expect savings totaling over S$89,000 from the app and what’s more, it’s completely free for 14 days! Of course, if you’d like to know more irresistible 1-for-1 deals within the trial period, you can make an in-app purchase of just S$60 (discount code below) to unlock them all 1000+ of them at once! 🙂 Do the math and realise how much you will save with the upgrade! Trial ended? No worries, you can still do so after the 14 days.
Full users (those who paid S$60) get to enjoy 1-for-1 main course deals* at Nara Thai, one of the participating merchants. Every merchant comes with 3 buy-one-get-one-free coupons (mostly for main course for food deals) and the most amazing thing is that they are not restricted to one per product purchase! In fact, you can even combine ALL 3 in one transaction for a party of 6 (omg why wasn’t I introduced to this app earlier when I was having my internship?!). Once you have used up all 3, you can actually get more by trading coupons with your friends! All coupons are valid for the entire year excluding eves of and public holidays (weekends OK!). It’s fuss-free and really easy to use 🙂
The app is available for download at theentertainerme.com or via your appstore (Android/iTunes) while the book retails at S$75 at selected bookstores. If you’re getting the full version on your phone, do quote “2015ALVIN” upon purchase to enjoy a 10% discount!
Have fun and thanks for reading! 🙂
Nara Thai Cuisine (ION Orchard)
2 Orchard Turn
Tel: 6634 5787
Operating hours: Mon-Sun 11.30am-10.00pm
(last order at 9pm Mon-Thu, 9.30pm Fri-Sun)
Nara Thai Cuisine (Westgate)
3 Gateway Drive
Operating hours: Mon-Sun 11.30am-10.00pm
(last order at 9pm Mon-Thu, 9.30pm Fri-Sun)